Partnership picks up pace of mental health support for students
The University of Wolverhampton has secured over £180,000 funding from the Office for Students (OfS) and will be working in partnership to pick up the pace of vital mental health support services for students who are working on placements.
In 2020, the Office for Students announced a major collaborative programme to find innovative ways to support groups of students with characteristics identified as increasing the risk of poor mental health and students who may experience barriers to accessing support due to their course, mode of study or other characteristics.
The OfS awarded just over £3 million, with co-funding of more than £3.16 million from lead providers and their partners, across 18 collaborative projects which will run until September 2023. The programme includes more than 90 organisations, including higher education providers, charities, NHS partners, students’ unions, sector bodies, digital providers and local authorities. The projects work as a network and share effective practice with the sector.
University staff will work with the Students’ Union and Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Recovery College to develop, test and deliver an innovative online suite of tools to support students in managing their own mental health.
‘PACE - A co-explored and co-created solution to address the mental health difficulties of students who undertake placement learning’ is part of the mental health funding competition programme: Using innovation and intersectional approaches to target mental health support for students, funded by the Office for Students. The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England. Their aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
The funding was offered to develop and test approaches that enable a more joined up service between the higher education and health sectors. The proposed project will put students at the heart of the partnership.
The two-year pilot project, which will start immediately, will focus on three groups of students studying for Nursing, Primary Education and Engineering degree courses.
Clare Dickens, Academic Lead in Mental Health at the University as well as the Chair of City of Wolverhampton’s Suicide Prevention Stakeholders Forum, said: “It’s clear that the emerging impact of the pandemic on students’ mental health poses both challenges and opportunities. We are absolutely delighted to have secured funding to develop an online toolkit which will aim to allow students to flourish and grow within their academic and practice-based learning.
“Co-creation is at the heart of the proposal and students will be engaged throughout the life of the project from concept and development through to testing and evaluation.
“Our priority will be to look at intersectional considerations based on the profile of the students in our target group to tailor provision accordingly. Beyond the project, the tool will be adapted and rolled out to other courses and made available to other providers, creating a sustainable resource which will be available across the University and the wider sector.”
Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor at the University, said: “This project fully aligns to the Students First pillar of our existing Strategic plan, by seeking to ensure that all students are provided with the opportunities and support necessary for them to achieve within the higher education environment; and to our developing 2030 vision to transform the leadership and workforce of our Place through inclusive student success.
“The proposed PACE project is of strategic importance as it enhances and builds on the University of Wolverhampton’s existing provision for supporting student mental health. This programme will provide an exemplar for co-production, and a framework that will be designed in a way that enables rollout across the wider Higher Education sector. We recognise that students undertaking placement-based learning may experience barriers to support, and this initiative seeks to understand and address some of these barriers.”
The University is contributing over £120,000 in match funding to the project as well as co investment from partners, bringing the total investment to over £300,000.
Tayabah Mahmood, President of the Students’ Union at the University, said: "The Students' Union is very excited to be a part of this pioneering initiative. Our new Strategic Plan is very much about empowering students to design impactful support services. Students have told us that improving well-being is one of their top concerns and they will therefore play a key role in this project to find practical and innovative solutions to improving well-being. We are very much looking forward to working with our partner agencies on this much needed project."
Kerry Wilkes, Principal at The Recovery College, Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for us and our students to share our philosophy, ethos, principles and practise, and we are delighted to be partners in The Pace Project.
“Co- production(co-creation) is at the heart of all we do and is weaved into our Recovery College at every level.
“Reducing stigma, tackling barriers and providing our students with hope, opportunity and choice is part of our mission. We look forward to engaging with all and working towards the shared goal of creating a toolkit to enable students to flourish and grow, effectively manage and be supported with any mental health difficulties in a way that is empowering and free from barriers and stigma.”
Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, said: “Having a mental health condition should not be a barrier to success in higher education, but for many students this is still the case. Data shows that students reporting a mental health condition are more likely to drop out, less likely to graduate with a first or 2:1, and progress into skilled work or further study – compared to students without a declared condition. We also know that students come to university or college from a range of backgrounds and that their individual journey, and the kind of support they require, is likely to be influenced by their specific circumstances.
“That’s why this funding of targeted interventions for student mental health is so important. By paying attention to the diverse needs of students; universities and colleges can fine-tune the support they offer and ensure that all students, regardless of where they are from, have the best chance possible to succeed.
“Working with the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education, we are pleased to be able to fund projects across a range universities and colleges targeting a number of priority groups. We look forward to working with these projects to develop and evaluate innovative and collaborative approaches to targeted support for student mental health, and to support the take-up of this learning for the benefit of students in all parts of the sector.”
Read Chris Millward's BLOG here - he explains the programme priorities and how the OfS is sharing effective practice in this important area.
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